Welcome. The Cleveland Indians are about to partake in the 2018 MLB postseason and you may feel unprepared. Hey, we get it.1 The Cavaliers took your attention April through June. After LeBron James spurned the team (again), you needed to get in some summer fun. Then, before you knew it, school and work filled up your calendar again. Maybe you even were hypnotized by Hue Jackson’s team becoming entertainingly competitive despite their inability to finish games. Besides, a dominant double-digit division lead for much of the season meant you knew Tribe October baseball was an eventuality.
Lucky for you the consistent theme for the Tribe has been Rally Together, and Trevor Bauer can use the support to fight Houston twitter trolls on social media.2 If the Indians have to face the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees in the ALCS, then every single person available in Northeast Ohio might be needed to shout down their loud, obnoxious fans.
You missed an incredible journey. The Indians took first place on April 21 and never relinquished it. Not for a single day. After winning back-to-back walk-off games against the second-place Minnesota Twins on August 8 and 9, the team was never less than 11 games up. Michael Brantley is now healthy as he played 143 games. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez somehow became even better versions of the players they were in 2017. The bullpen was terrifying early on, but after a huge mid-season traded of a player Baseball Prospectus had once tabbed the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball (Francisco Mejia), the relievers put out more fires than they started themselves.
With that, we felt it would be best to give you all a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Indians to help yourself sound like one of the cool kids that watched all 162 regular season games. Or, at the very least, enough crib notes to fake it.
Be forewarned: Since you can look up the stats, we’re going to stick to the narratives.
AL Cy Young Award
Whew. What a year for this award. Chris Sale looked unassailable until he missed a good chunk of the season, which opened the door for Trevor Bauer to become the fourth Indians starter to win the award over the last 11 seasons. An unfortunate line drive off his shin ended his chances prematurely, which has left the top spot to a battle between the Astros Justin Verlander and Chris Sale (who didn’t qualify enough innings to be considered a leader in any category by MLB standards).
Do not let it be lost that the Indians still finished with four of the Top 9 AL pitchers in fWAR and should have two-to-three finish in the Top 5 of the AL Cy Young Award voting. Corey Kluber (2.89 ERA / 3.12 FIP), Carlos Carrasco (3.38 / 2.94), Trevor Bauer (2.21, 2.44) and Mike Clevinger (3.02 / 3.52) make for a dominant rotation. Oh, they are also the first set of four starters for one team to each finish with over 200 strikeouts in MLB history.
AL MVP Award
Jose Ramirez was stating his case loudly through the first four months of the season. Unfortunately, the season is six months long, which has seen J-Ram in a significant slump. Even with the slow finish, both Ramirez and Francisco Lindor should slide into the Top 5 of the voting after posting fantastic seasons.
AL ROY Award
While the Indians don’t have anyone in the Rookie of the Year race, they are relying on several rookies for their postseason run. Greg Allen will play a significant role in center field. Shane Bieber has much better peripherals than his ERA indicates and won’t be used a third-time through the order in October in his new relief role, which is where he has struggled the most. Adam Cimber could provide key innings or match up plays.
AL MOY Award
The Tribe was considered strong favorites in the AL Central and won the division going away. As such, manager Terry Francona will not be in consideration for the award though he still deserves a hearty hat-tip for continuing to finish at or above expectations (see: Washington Nationals for the opposite). Francona also finishes above .500 as he has done every single year he has managed the Indians.
The Tribe is now 545-425 under Terry Francona making it the second-best ever six-year start to a managerial career in Cleveland to Hall of Famer Al Lopez (1951-1956, 570-354) and more wins than the best six-year stretch for Mike Hargrove with a higher Indians managerial winning percentage overall.3
AL EOY Award
Again, the status of meeting expectations will not garner many votes for this award. The front office also appeared to have some blips over the offseason in the evaluation of the outfield and bullpen. The in-season moves worked out much better as they acquired Brad Hand, Adam Cimber, Josh Donaldson, and Leonys Martin. Each move has helped to some degree though Martin’s quick health demise was unfortunate; though certainly not a fault of evaluation (more on Martin below).
Roberto Clemente Award
Carrasco could win this award for the team every single year. For 2018 though, let’s highlight Bauer’s philanthropic efforts as he dedicated $420.69 each day for 69 days to different charities he crowd-sourced from fans and industry people. A good use of some of the money he won in arbitration.
Clevinger also had some great fan interaction with regards to donating to charity.
— ❂ Mike 𝕊𝕌ℕ𝕊ℍ𝕀ℕ𝔼 Clevinger ❂ (@Mike_Anthony13) October 1, 2018
Can any other team match up with the Tribe’s rotation?
The current iteration of the Indians is unmatched in terms of quality, depth, and health. However, the Houston Astros happen to be the only team whose top three starters (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel) can claim similar excellence with Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers being quite capable. It is not hyperbole to state the ALDS will feature one of the greatest postseason rotation battles in history.
What is going on with Yan Gomes?
In a meaningless game near the end of the regular season, Gomes’ throwing hand met the backswing of Alex Gordon’s bat. Profuse bleeding and deep bruising were had. After some stitches, the hope is that Gomes will be able to still catch and hit in the ALDS, but there might be reason to worry about a repeat of the Bauer against the Blue Jays incident as the stitches could rupture (MLB rules are less stringent on hitters than they are pitchers, so he might be OK.).
(Squinting) Hey, who is that bearded man in center field? He looks like Jason Kipnis.
If you haven’t followed the Indians since last October, then nothing has changed. If you missed the last couple months though, then, yes, Kipnis is back in center field. An injury to Bradley Zimmer, an illness taking Martin out of the season (wait for it, it’s below still), and Allen not quite being ready to assume full-time duties put Kipnis back in center field once the Tribe traded for Donaldson.
I can’t stand it. What happened with Leonys Martin?
Players have been wearing LM13 on their ballcaps since the team revealed why Martin had to step away from the team after a fantastic six-game stretch after the Indians traded for the much-needed center fielder. A bacterial infection entered his bloodstream and threatened his life. He remained hospitalized in the Cleveland Clinic for several days and the initial communications were more about his overall health for life without any thought to a rehabilitation for baseball purposes. He is expected to make a full recovery now, but, as you enjoy the baseball postseason, join WFNY by keeping Martin and his family in your prayers.
Wait! What now? Josh Donaldson?!? Like THE Josh Donaldson?
Why yes, Donaldson is now a member of the Cleveland Indians. He is on an expiring contract and the Toronto Blue Jays were not going to make the postseason, so they traded him while they could still obtain assets in return. The other AL teams threw quite the fit too because Donaldson just made it back in time from a strained calf to be eligible to be traded. I am sure that fans of the Indians will feel quite bad for those teams that signed or traded for big money players such as J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Giancarlo Stanton over the last year.
Can I have a quick-hitter on the other main lineup contributors you haven’t mentioned much in case someone asks me?
What about the other bullpen guys?
What was the best outside the chalk stories of the season?
WFNY has become the place to follow the Cleveland Indians postseason as there is just a wealth of information and a ton of content. For what could be a special run, Mike Hattery, Gage Will, Jim Pete, Joe Gerberry, Jay Cannon, and myself will guide you along the way- perhaps with some guest authors as well. We hope to have a wide range with our style of coverage so that we can fit any need or desire you might have for following the Tribe’s October.
Go, Tribe, Go!
Here’s a quick sample of what you can expect (along with some more in-depth info):